Sam Burnham, Curator
“Beauty will save the world...”
This was the response left by my friend Laura to our post on Instagram quoting Sir Roger Scruton: “Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it did not matter.”
The very moment I read it I knew it was a complex statement with one meaning that transcends creation, a meaning on a spiritual plane. But she also meant in the here and now. While it is easy to see chaos and destruction and fear the worst, we must never underestimate the transforming, revolutionary, restorative, creative power of beauty. It brings life wherever it is introduced. Aesthetics matter. Be it art, nature, music, architecture, or a thousand other forms, beauty inspires us and makes our world better.
Consider the way a flower can sprout through a crack in a parking lot. It is that sort of resilience that will enable beauty to save the world. No matter how hard we work to bulldoze, grade, and pave it away, nature is always fighting to get back.
But why constantly fight against it? There are ways to work with it. American cities and towns have a long history of parks and public squares. Green spaces allow us to have a connection with nature, even in an automated mechanical world. This is one reason I love the Victorian garden cemeteries. Statuary, trees, grass, birds, a peaceful respite from the hustle just outside the gates.
But development need not be unappealing. While our recent past has given us generic strip malls along both sides of nondescript streets, a trend has arisen that restores, revitalizes, and repurposes the great architecture of our past. Buildings with character, a mixture of utility and grace, are giving us new uses for the places that have endured. Historic downtowns, old factories, even classic homes are housing a new generation of commerce. It’s a much better option than the revolving door of disposable structures that go from blueprints to landfill in a few years, if not months.
And beauty comes to us in other forms. There’s the beauty of a bride on her big day, the beauty of a newborn child, the beauty of a violin concerto, the beauty of a sunset on the Ogeechee. The constant through all of these is hope. Beauty renews our world and shows us that, despite the evil and chaos we see, the world should go on. We should use this hope to encourage ourselves and others that beauty will indeed save the world. With that in mind, let us live by the Scruton quote I mentioned earlier. If we’re to see beauty increase in our world, let us live as though it is vital...because it is.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire